Black Vengeance – 17
Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter. I am just playing in the world created by JKR. As usual, all criticism is welcome.
Of the Longbottom Case
"It is ironic that we should have been sentenced for what we did, while being acquitted of what we actually did," murmured Rodolphus Lestrange, as his lips quirked in a cynical smile. Interpreting Harry's questioning glance correctly, he explained, "Bellatrix and I did plenty of things in the Dark Lord's service that we don't even want to think about and we were never convicted of them. And finally, we were done in by something we did not do."
"Your brother?" questioned Harry.
Rodolphus laughed harshly at that, "That is, perhaps, the ultimate irony. He was not even a Death Eater until we were freed by the Dark Lord a few months ago."
"Oh, yes!" nodded Rodolphus. "He was never a Death Eater for sound and practical reasons, Potter. In all families that served the Dark Lord, we left one member unmarked and untainted by Death Eater activities to keep the family safe in case something went wrong and also to maintain plausible deniability. Thus, my brother was left free to represent the Lestrange interests honestly, while Narcissa was left free to safeguard the Malfoy interests. However, they were both Death Eaters in sympathies."
Something stirred in Harry's memory – a remark he had overlooked in Voldemrot's resurrection. Voldemort had looked at a gap wide enough to hold two people and commented, 'The Lestranges should stand here ...' If all three of the Lestranges had been involved, there should have been a gap wide enough for three people! It agreed with Rodolphus Lestrange's claim that his brother had been unmarked. He nodded, as Hermione questioned Rodolphus, "If you were innocent of the crime and not even at the site of the crime, why were you accused?"
Rodolphus answered readily, "Apparently, Frank Longbottom recognised us and named us before he was carted off to St. Mungo. Alastor Moody, the auror in charge of the case, took his statement and it was verified by Dumbledore in his capacity as Chief Warlock."
"If you were not involved in the attack, what do you think might have happened to the Longbottoms?" asked Harry.
"I have no idea, Potter. I can think of three possibilities. First, someone impersonated us. Second, Longbottom was mistaken about our identities. Or lastly, we were deliberately framed! Moody hated us enough to do it."
"How did Crouch's son get accused, then? Was he really involved or was he framed as well?"
"We've no idea," returned Bellatrix wearily. "All I can tell you is that he was a surprise to us."
"So was he innocent? Wasn't he a Death Eater?" asked Harry sceptically.
Rodolphus considered the question, before answering carefully. "Let me put it this way, Potter. We heard of what young Barty did to return the Dark Lord. He was in the Dark Lord's circle so all of us knew he was a Death Eater. What I can say is that it is most unlikely that he was ever involved in actions against the Dark Lord's enemies. Bellatrix, Andronicus, or myself would have known had he participated in any of the raids. My suspicion is that he was probably a spy for the Dark Lord. Having a spy in the very household of the head of DMLE would be very useful to him."
Harry nodded, while Hermione took up the inquisition. "Couldn't you prove that you were not involved? After all, you got a trial!"
"Prove our innocence!" laughed Rodolphus bitterly. "Frank Longbottom had identified us as his attackers, we had no one who could testify that we were elsewhere – we were drunk and in bed, Severus Snape swore up and down that we had been Death Eaters high in the Dark Lord's favour, and Dumbledore gave evidence that the Longbottoms possessed information that would be vital to Death Eaters in their quest to return Voldemort. Motive, opportunity and recognition! That sealed our fate."
"But you had been acquitted once before!"
Bellatrix laughed a cold and unpleasant laugh, while Rodolphus looked at her pityingly. "We had been acquitted in general examinations of all suspected Death Eaters. We had never been accused of a specific crime!. Besides, do you really think Barty Crouch would give us a fair trial when he had so much personal stake? He was facing a crisis of monumental proportions. Two of the most popular aurors had been tortured to insanity and his own son was one of the accused! His first, and probably only instinct, was to save his own position, no matter what it entailed to the others. He even sacrificed his own son!" He reclined in his chair, and spoke almost reminiscently, "The jury had prejudged us. They wanted a scapegoat. There were plenty who were outraged that many Death Eaters had escaped and when Longbottom identified us as his attackers, it sealed our fate."
"Your elf ..." began Harry.
"The evidence given by elves in support of their masters is always considered dubious, Harry. Their masters can command elves to lie for them, and they cannot refuse! Consequently, elven evidence is rarely considered clinching," returned Mrs. Greengrass.
"What happened after you were arrested?" questioned Harry.
Rodolphus lips twisted sardonically, as he answered Harry, "Young Barty Crouch, along with the three of us, were dumped in holding cells. Less than four and twenty hours later, we were all tried by a jury hand picked by Crouch and we held no chance there. We were told what crimes we had committed, and then sentenced to Azkaban for life!"
Harry looked at the two Lestranges neutrally and spoke, "I have heard your claims. Now can you offer any proof in support of your claims?"
Hermione nodded approvingly, while Rodolphus almost smiled, "Potter, it is fourteen years since we were imprisoned. All evidence would be long gone by now. However, we can offer you some points you should consider."
"First, Potter, both your parents and the Longbottoms were in hiding for a long time. Something to do with a prophecy about their son being a possible candidate to slay the Dark Lord. But the Longbottoms' son did not defeat the Dark Lord – it was you who did. The Longbottoms had just returned when they were attacked. They were out of touch with the latest events. If anyone wanted to find and return the Dark Lord, the Longbottoms would likely be the last people to where to find him!"
"What do you know about the prophecy?" asked Harry quickly.
"We know what the Dark Lord knows – that either you or young Longbottom could possibly defeat the Dark Lord. Which was why he was hunting both your parents and the Longbottoms."
Harry nodded, so Bellatrix continued, "Secondly, Potter, if we wanted information, we would not bother torturing the Longbottoms in their own estate. They were aurors, and if we had broken in, it would be very likely we would have triggered alarms. We would have taken them prisoner and tortured them at our leisure in our hiding place – and there are quite a few of the Dark Lord's hiding places that have never been revealed – instead of staying there, waiting for the aurors. We may have been ruthless and brutal, we were not stupid!"
"Thirdly, Potter, we had just been acquitted. Old Crouch was crafty – he often had those he released watched carefully in case he had released some Death Eaters. If we wanted to find and resurrect the Dark Lord, we would certainly not have done it so soon after our release. We would have waited until Crouch's spies had determined us innocent!"
"So what exactly is the official version of the events?" questioned Hermione.
Rodolphus answered, "The official version is that we went to the Longbottom estate and having subdued the Longbottoms, were in the process of torturing them for information, when four aurors arrived, whereat we promptly fled. The aurors followed us to our home and arrested us!"
Bellatrix smiled, "Final pointer – if we had escaped the aurors, we would not have gone to our own estates since that would be the first place that would be searched. Matter of fact, no four aurors could have defeated us, so we would not have fled. We would have crushed those aurors as well, and tortured them too for the information!"
There was a long awkward silence at the statement, and finally Emmeline Vance broke it. She spoke quietly, "There is something about the Longbottoms that I think you should all know. It is most unlikely they were tortured into insanity at all!"
"What?!" All eyes were goggling at her in astonishment, and even Bellatrix seemed to be shaken out of her habitual cold, and haughty composure. Mrs. Greengrass recovered first. "Perhaps you could explain?"
Emmeline consented and in a few words explained how she had been put in charge of the Longbottom business over the last month, how she found no records of their injuries or treatment, how she had ordered new tests and the results of the reports she had obtained – that they had had a massive memory charm performed on them, and been kept under a regimen of confundus spells and potions.
There was another shocked silence when she had finished. Harry shattered that pin drop silence finally, speaking to Emmeline, "If your ideas are correct, ma'am, what could have happened to them?"
Emmeline leant back in her chair, speaking slowly and contemplatively, "I cannot say what could have happened, Harry. What I can tell you is what did not happen. And that is that the Longbottoms were not tortured into insanity!"
"They were not subjected to the cruciatus curse at all?" inquired Hermione, wide eyed.
"If they were, there are no permanent effects of the curse on them."
"Why the memory charm on them then?" asked Hermione.
"You ask me the question I have asked myself a hundred times," smiled the healer at the muggleborn girl. "I have no answer to it. At first, I thought that the Lestranges had used the spell to cover up the cruciatus curse, but even that does not answer their symptoms. Now ..." her voice trailed away contemplatively.
Harry asked her, "Ma'am, you say they have been kept there under a spell and potions regimen. If they were weaned off the confundus magic and treated for the damage they have suffered, could they be cured?"
Emmeline frowned at the question, "I honestly have no clue, Harry. I have never had a case where people were brutally dosed with confundus magic routinely for a very long time. Their brains have been completely taken apart and put back haphazardly. The amount of damage they would have suffered over the years would be appalling. Add to that the memory charm, and things are going to be far worse."
"If you were asked to treat them now, how would you proceed?" asked Mrs. Greengrass.
Emmeline replied reflectively, "The first thing would be get them off those spells and potions. Then a long therapy using gentle Legilimency to help them focus their thoughts and mind sharpening potions would be in order. But whatever we do, it is going to take a long time – probably months – to get any results at all."
She continued in the same thoughtful fashion, "It would help if we have memories that we know they have with them. Memories that we both share. If we could gently push to remember those memories, perhaps they could begin knitting their own memories slowly. I have a few memories with them from the last war. Perhaps we could find others who have memories with them and we can begin healing them!"
"Why do you think confundus magic was used on them?" asked Hermione.
Emmeline made no reply, but Harry inquired quietly, "What about the previous healer? The one who administered those potions – and probably performed those spells – on the Longbottoms?"
"We have no proof that Miriam Strout actually performed those spells, or fed them the potions," responded Emmeline distractedly. She still could scarcely credit that a fellow healer would fall so far from her vows as to actually harm a patient willfully.
"There is no way anything could be done to them without the Healer's knowledge," cut in Mrs. Greengrass sharply.
Emmeline bowed in token of the truth of Mrs. Greengrass' statement, but said little else. "We should interrogate this Healer," murmured Bellatrix. "She may be able to shed much light about this affair."
"Now, see here," blustered Emmeline. "We are not going to torture ..."
"That were unnecessary," murmured Rodolphus, "even if it were possible. We have a supply of veritaserum with us. She will answer everything truthfully."
There was silence for a moment. Emmeline put her hand in her pocket to get her handkerchief and her hand happened upon a scrap of paper. "Oh!" she exclaimed.
"What is it?"
From her pocket, Emmeline drew the scrap of paper – a bubblegum wrapper, to be precise – that Alice Longbottom had given her on her first visit. She explained the circumstances connected with the wrapper. Bellatrix who had been listening keenly, muttered, "If I may have a look ..."
Without a word, Emmeline Vance passed it to the haughty witch. Bellatrix held it for a moment in her fingers, her eyes closed as though she were trying to commune with the paper. Suddenly, she drew her wand, and touching it to the wrapper, murmured, "Aparecium!"
The outline of three words, written in black ink in a shaky hand, appeared faintly on the wrapper,
HELP FREE US
Emmeline Vance went ashy pale, when she read that, while Harry was gazing at Bellatrix Lestrange in astonishment. "How did you know what was written there?" demanded Harry.
"I didn't," replied Bellatrix curtly. "I could just feel magic on the paper – it is one of my specialities, Potter. As I felt magic from an obviously empty piece of paper, I thought something might be hidden there."
Emmeline murmured softly, "Of course! Alice was very famous for her invisibility spells. I guess she wrote that plea and cast the invisibility spells when she got a chance. But it does not add up – she is incapable of coherent thought. How could she have written it? How did she even know whom to hand the wrapper to?"
Bellatrix was already waving her wand in intricate patterns over the paper, murmuring strange spells while the others watched in admiration and surprise. A few minutes, she ceased her spellcasting and reclined back in her chair, as she explained "The invisibility charm on the bubblegum wrapper is really old. Years, at least. Someone very skilled in the use of invisibility charms – probably Alice Longbottom – wrote the message on the paper years ago, and placed the invisibility charm on the writing." She continued thoughtfully looking at Emmeline, "Now why did they hand it to you?"
Something stirred in Harry's memory. He had been with Neville and his parents at St. Mungo's when Alice Longbottom had handed Neville those very bubblegum wrappers. He answered quietly, "Actually, Alice Longbottom has been handing out those notes to a lot of people for a long time. I saw her hand out one to Neville during last Christmas. I suspect that she wrote those in the hopes of getting out and is now handing it to everyone except the Healer, whom though she does not recognise positively, knows subconsciously that she cannot be trusted!"
There was a long deadly silence at this. Everyone, Bellatrix included, was horrified by what had been wrought on the Longbottoms. There only remained the question of what to do.
Young Crouch's desperate pleas in the court struck me strangely. Was it true that he did not really torture the Longbottoms? We know for sure that the trial was heavily biased – the way the jury behaved – clapping and cheering when they got a conviction – was more reminiscent of a lynch mob than an impartial bunch of twelve men. Also, this is in total contrast to his almost proud admission of guilt to Harry later on – he arrogantly tells Harry how he set up Harry and his acts later on. Would the person who is so proud of his actions declaim them in the court?
Also, I found it rather ridiculous that the Ministry would not indulge in testilying to put Death Eaters (supposed and real) behind bars, especially when they were fighting a war. We are talking about a time when Crouch was tossing people in Azkaban left and right without a trial!
I have used a slightly different idea for Legilimency, where any intrusion into another's mind can be considered Legilimency.
Finally, after his resurrection in GoF, Voldemort stares at a place wide enough for two people and says - 'The Lestranges should stand here." Now there are three Lestranges - Rodolphus, Bellatrix, and Rabastan. Does it mean somehow that one of the other Lestranges was not a Death Eater? Or does it imply that he/she was simply standing elsewhere in the circle? The present chapter contains my interpretation on the matter.